Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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15.5.5 Enabling Policies, Programmes and Measures

Acceleration of coastal-adaptation technology transfer across organisational boundaries requires actions at all levels of the process by all stakeholders. Of the newer institutional developments evolving, the best will be those that are effective in fostering corporate and community collaborative efforts, while nurturing positive government-academic-business relationships (Kozmetsky, 1990; see also Chapter 4 on enabling environment). Common elements of these new policies, programmes and measures include:

  • New governmental technology policies that provide increased support for helping users to obtain adjust and use technology. This includes major investments in information infrastructure, in training and education of the workforce and in outreach and extension services (Brooks, 1993). For example, the U.S. NOAA Coastal Services Center produces environmental data sets and information products for coastal managers, provides access to information clearinghouses for coastal scientists, managers and the public, and conducts technical training for coastal planners and managers.
  • Decisions on technology activities at the national level that are increasingly made in collaboration with other levels of government and private-sector users. This may be accomplished by government-sponsored needs assessments (e.g., via surveys, stakeholder meetings and workshops). However, it implies that focal points must exist and be well sited within the national government to be able to input user needs and capabilities into the decision process.
  • Research universities that are becoming more deeply engaged in applied R&D, and are expanding ways for accelerating technology diffusion to users at all levels of government and the private sector. Mechanisms that have proven to be effective include extension services, such as training and guidance provided by sea-grant colleges in the United States and joint university-business research parks to promote collective R&D.
  • New business alliances with government collaborators to leverage resources and capabilities. These could include joint projects with consortia of business, such as those fostered by the Danish Hydraulic Institute.
  • Increased involvement of NGOs and trainers who have a sound grasp of social methodology, understand the concerns of target groups and are able to devise the most appropriate means for conveying information at the grassroots level.

Other powerful mechanisms to facilitate successful coastal adaptation and technology transfer are regulation, standards and insurance. For example, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act in the United States provides protection to coastal barriers by prohibiting most expenditures of federal funds in these areas, thus strongly discouraging development. Insurance can have a similar role, although it may also stimulate maladaptive practices (Box 15.3). Building codes and standards are covered in Chapter 7, while international performance standards are discussed in Section 15.6.5.

Box 15.3 The role of insurance
In countries with climate-related insurance markets, insurance can have a positive or a negative role in promoting adaptation to climate change and any associated technology transfer (Clark, 1998). This may happen directly via contacts with customers or indirectly as the insurance industry lobbies institutions. Technology underpins this interaction as improving data management and modelling capability give the insurance industry more detailed information of both the risks and opportunities that climate variability and change present (Crichton and Mounsey, 1997). However, as Clark (1998) argued, more knowledge may benefit the insurance industry, but it does not necessarily lead to overall societal benefits. Determining if insurance is acting in a negative or positive role will depend on the assessment criteria and is linked with the issue of distinguishing adaptation from maladaptation. Clark (1998) argued that a government-insurance industry partnership can benefit both the industry and wider society in terms of reduced exposure to both climate variability and climate change and maintain the long-term health of the insurance industry.

At the one extreme, the insurance industry might be involved in the planning process by using its knowledge to discourage development in hazardous locations. Information technology is critical for this type of role. At the other extreme, the insurance industry might simply ignore the problem (i.e., use no technology) and promote maladaptation by repeatedly providing the resources for redevelopment. In the short term, this may seem sustainable, but a large natural disaster may promote sudden withdrawal of insurance and have serious consequences for coastal property values and general development.

An intermediate approach is to link the availability of insurance to appropriate regulations on land use in hazardous areas. The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers an example of this approach. It requires information technology to define the hazardous zone, appropriate building technology and continuous monitoring of performance (Davison, 1993; OTA, 1993). Training and technology transfer are an integral part of the NFIP. In return for obeying the codes, all participating communities are eligible for flood insurance. Opinions on the success or failure of the NFIP differ. An NFIP perspective is that as the property stock is progressively replaced and buildings built to code increase as a proportion of the vulnerable stock, insured losses will decline significantly relative to a baseline without the NFIP. A first-order assessment of the impacts of accelerated sea-level rise suggests that the NFIP can be adapted to this change (FEMA, 1991). The major deficiency, however, is that erosion is ignored (NRC, 1990; Davison, 1993). An alternative view is that the NFIP is a classic example of maladaptation. Whichever perspective is correct, the NFIP demonstrates that incentives and regulations enforced via insurance can promote technology transfer with large potential benefits.

While the above examples are mainly focused on climate variability, with appropriate anticipatory measures insurance could be used to encourage adaptation to climate change, including the necessary technology transfer (e.g., OTA, 1993; Berz, 1998). The insurance industry is increasingly assessing the potential implications of climate change and where they have a market presence, their opinion will be an important influence on the timing and nature of adaptation.

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